Art and Sculpture in the Garden: A Garden Designers Round Table Post

| July 23, 2012 | 6 Comments

Of course this could be as simple as something which you like the look of,  which is simply placed in the garden context.

But it is at its most potent and therefore most effective when it is used in association with the garden’s route, its spaces and planting.

Art and sculpture on the whole provide something solid in the flummery of garden vegetation. They can therefore act as a thematic accent, a punctuation point and a focal point.

The focal aspect can be used to draw the eye and lead the feet, making it a key part of the the way the garden looks, works and the way which you move around and through it.

Art and sculpture should of themselves invite feeling and interaction.

 It can influence or accent a sense of scale either making you feel like a giant or a minnow.


But appropriately chosen and beautifully placed it is beautifully appropriate

 Moving even, emotionally, if it is good enough

Or else it looks like it has landed from out of space!

Sculpture can add a sense of fun and movement to the garden,

arouse - think shapely greek gods and goddesses here.

(We’d not raise your blood pressure by including a pic for that!)

 endear, (but ‘cutesey’ may be the least likely design virtue to endure!)


make your eyes play games

 memorialise – world events or your own family

and explain.

It could say something political to you. But this may have very limited appeal:

On the whole it is best to avoid over complex thought – this may have meant a lot to someone, but if it doesn’t work independently of that mind it may just look a pretentious mess.

Most of us would simply prefer a shapely marble buttock or breast!

While it is of course a question of personal choice the addition of sculpture is something of a high risk strategy, since here, if you have not previously in your garden, you will reveal your fundamental sense of taste

be it good


or frankly vulgar!

If in doubt a good urn is always a safe choice!

In all quality is vital.

Never add it just for the sake of it.

This garden

fairly clanked with ‘collectibles’. A gun rarely fired makes the most telling shot. Less is truly more!

It is also worth thinking laterally. What is sculpture anyway? The borderline between art, sculpture, ornament, objet and object is indeed fine.

Plants can be sculpture

This collapsed parasol struck us as  sculptural, textural and as the wind ruffled its plumage, almost animal!

And indeed, well made and artistically created but functional garden items:


a gate

and even a rhubarb forcer, can have a pleasing sculptural presence.

There is a huge range of choice and cost out there. But while on the whole you get what you pay for, something sculptural need not be expensive – the objet trouvee is now a garden classic:

In all it seems to us that the most desirable qualities to look for and use in application are:

simplicity,  restraint,  good taste and good quality

- oh, and appropriately sited!

We don’t ask much!

L and R

Lesley Hegarty and Robert webber

Now why not check out what our fellow knights and ladies of the round table have to say:

Susan Cohan : Miss Rumphius’ Rules : Chatham, NJ

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Mary Gallagher Gray : Black Walnut Dispatch : Washington, D.C.

Jenny Peterson : J Petersen Garden Design : Austin, TX

Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In The Garden : Los Altos, CA

Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX

Category: General

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  1. Pam/Digging says:

    As perceptive and funny as always, L and R: “Most of us would simply prefer a shapely marble buttock or breast!” So true! I’m afraid my post from funky, anything-goes Austin will come down on the vulgar side of things for your refined British taste, but I know you will appreciate the tongue-in-cheek nature of it anyway. :-)

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for these three words: quality (and) good taste!

  3. Robert says:

    Hi Pam, Thanks so much for your compliment.
    Oh God we brits can be up ourselves, but we do know it and do take the proverbial out of ourselves sometimes!
    Acutally I think if there is a lot of good taste there can then be something unbelievably brash.
    And that is completely winning somehow.
    Thanks for commenting.

  4. Robert says:

    Hi Jocelyn!
    Yes the two are not the same, which is interesting!
    Thanks so much for your comment.
    All the best

  5. Robert and Leslie,your essay is a very good read. It is so easy to take a “pleasing sculptural appearance” and make a “pretentious mess” of siting it in the landscape. I have dragged myself back from that cliff plenty of times. Thanks for such a well sritten and perfectly illustrated post. Deborah

  6. Robert says:

    Hi Deborah!
    Yes I think sculpture is one of those things which it is too easy to just ‘plonk’, a bit like a kind of shorthand.
    But it is also becoming a means of making some kind of elaborate statement about something or other.
    Novel or notelet, its a no win really!
    No seriously, when you get it right, a garden zings.
    Thanks so much for your appreciative comments.

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